Christmas & family gatherings can be the most challenging time for people with food intolerances and allergies—or even just for those of us trying to eat a little better. Not only is it a time of excess to celebrate with friends and family, but it is also the time when foods are prepared communally—and let’s face it, ‘traditional Christmas food’ (in the western world) is far from healthy. At best, it’s just eating too much delicious roast veggies (if that’s possible), and at worst, it’s rice pudding eating competitions and an extra 5kg.
Food is central to life and eating together—whether it be brunch with friends, family meals, ice cream and popcorn in front of a movie, or the Christmas feast, food is a way to bond, share, and care for each other. Making the change due to health issues or living with allergies that require you to eat differently can be isolating, alienating, attract unwanted attention and teasing, or leave you hungry. Even though eating differently (whether it be dairyfree, glutenfree, cane sugar free, vegetarian, vegan, free range only, or nut free) can mean that you feel physically better, with less headaches, body aches, clearer skin, or even healthier weight, it can be emotionally challenging when everyone around you is sharing in something you would rather not eat. It can also be hard if you’re away from the comfort of your fridge and pantry at home.
So, here are my holiday survival tips.
#1. Prepare. Come with snacks for when everyone else is having cheese and crackers. Don’t be caught out. Make sure you always have something ready to go in case non-allergy-friendly dinner is dished up. The worst thing is to be caught hungry surrounded by people who are eating.
#2. Replace! Choose your favourite dish, the one Christmas dish you just ‘can’t live without’, and make an allergy friendly version. Make it edible—something that everyone can eat!
#3. ….and bring extra! No doubt your friends and family will be curious about what you eat, and they’re probably going to want to try whatever amazing dish you whip up. While it can be an additional load on the preparation to make extra to share, this can pay great dividends in allowing others to experience that food can still tasty delicious when it’s different. Instead of an argument about the validity of various food choices, it’s often better to just focus on eating delicious food. Opening the door for others to explore eating for their own health as well can allow for a sense of connection & understanding that would otherwise be missing.
You never know, next time someone else might bring food that’s ‘Edible’!